Flat and Barren... We are NOT!!

Last week I read an article posted online by The Weather Channel on the “Ten Most Depressing States,” which basically compared the psychological statistics across the country. Oklahoma was on the list, and the part on Oklahoma started off something like, “Perhaps it’s the flat, barren landscape or the severe weather, but…” 

This really ticked me off. For one, I only skimmed the article, but I don’t recall them saying anything disparaging about the other states. And for another… they are full of crap. Have they even been to Oklahoma? This ain’t exactly the moon. We do not have a flat, barren landscape. Although some of Oklahoma is flat, true that. The popular notion that Oklahoma is basically too insignificant to contain beauty has always mystified me, and in fact, this post has been a long time coming, so prepare for a rant. 

Even growing up here, I never felt that way, especially once I started traveling around the state in my teens. The more of Oklahoma I visited, the more inspiring it became to me, and the more I wanted to see. It is here in Oklahoma that I have visited peat bogs, cypress swamps, plains, mountains, hills, tall grass prairies and mesas. I have scaled mountains made of gravel, stomped through bouldered creeks, and waded through waist-deep mud. I’ve caught fish, salamander, lizards, snakes, tarantulas, and tree frogs, and carefully side-stepped wild buffalo, scorpion, and rattle snakes. I have spent many hours in deep lush woods. I have been caving, canoeing, snorkeling, deer-counting, bat-watching; I have collected fossils and found gar skeletons, and sat atop waterfalls. Oklahoma is diverse and beautiful. The only conclusion I can draw is that perhaps people who don’t know this… either haven’t truly looked, or find few things in life beautiful.

Sure, if you live in the middle of Oklahoma City, you don’t have an ocean within an hour’s journey or a snow-capped mountain hovering on the horizon… what you have is a lot of flat cement. You have to look just the smallest bit to see the Awesomeness that is natural Oklahoma.

  • Environment:
    • Oklahoma has 12 ecoregions. The only states that have more than we do are California and Texas, and this is because they span more grades of latitude than we do. Mile for mile, we have more ecological diversity than any other state in the country.  Ecoregions include everything from forests and plains to mountains and mesas, including everything from the dry, flat panhandle to the humid subtropics of hilly SE Oklahoma
    • Thanks to a multitude of lakes and rivers, Oklahoma has more shoreline than the Pacific coast, Atlantic coast, and Gulf coast combined.
    • Oklahoma contains smaller, unique regions that are not designated as their own ecoregions, such as Little Sahara (rolling sand dunes), the salt plains, mineral springs, and Ferndale Bog (peat bogland)
  • Wildlife:
    • Oklahoma has 760 species of wildlife, including 17 threatened and endangered species.
    • Based on numbers of reported sightings, Oklahoma has the largest population of mountain lions in the country.
    • Oklahoma also has bears, alligators, and bald eagles… and I am frequently shocked to find lifelong Okies who are not aware of this.
    • I also frequently find Okies who don’t know we have bats. Listen up, people: Oklahoma has lots of bats! Pay close attention at night! You will notice that not all of the fast dark flying things are birds! Even in the city, lots of bats! And speaking of things that are not birds…
    • The state bird is NOT the mosquito… Does EVERY state have this joke? Because I have been to at least four states where people thought this was clever, claiming they had the biggest mosquitoes in the country.
  • I am not a geologist, but I once had a geologist buddy who told me that Oklahoma is particularly geologically diverse, and is visited by geologists from all over the world who come to study here. I can’t verify that. I can verify this: 
    • If you know where and how to look, you can find petrified wood, and fossils from the sea  creatures that used to live here. Like the ammonite I found, here...
    • Oklahoma contains what is rumored to be one of North America’s oldest mountain ranges, the Arbuckles, which are 1.5 billion years old. People sometimes say the Wichitas are the oldest… unless I am wrong, they are 500 million years old.
    • Oklahoma has other unique geologic features, including rock glaciers and pimple mounds.
    • The Alabaster Caverns are the largest gypsum caves in the world which are open to the public, and contain black alabaster, which occurs only in three places on Earth.
    • And of course… fossil fuels. But you all knew that.
  • Oklahoma is home to the Spiro Mounds, considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites east of the Rockies. It was the capital of the known world, the Western-most outpost of Mississippian culture from 900-1450 AD.  

And, just for the record, I cannot pick a favorite Oklahoma locale, but Blue River holds a special place in my heart, and I have always found Beaver’s Bend to be particularly stunning.


Kyle Murray said...

I am a geologist that has lived in and explored several states. Now that I live in Oklahoma I can attest to what you've said about the geology. Oklahoma is quite an interesting and diverse state, but maybe it is better that it is misunderstood by the rest.

Alien Mind Girl said...

Undiscovered/undervalued treasures can have their benefits. True that.